Australia is in the throes of an economic transition. The incredible mining boom of the past 15 years is nearing the end of its final phase: large increases in production volumes as new investment projects have come on stream. While we have avoided this time the boom-then-bust cycle of previous episodes, economic growth has been weak — reflected in four years of living standards at a standstill — held back by population ageing, faltering global trade and the lingering legacy of the global financial crisis.

Despite this, I remain optimistic about Australia’s future. Australia has long been an innovative nation, highly capable of adapting to change. Our firms are amongst the most innovation-active in the world and our research has global impact. From what we can see of the future — new digital technologies like 3D printing, quantum computing, blockchain and artificial intelligence — it holds enticing opportunities for our innovators and entrepreneurs to capitalise on.

Who will lead the charge in innovation-led growth in Australia? Businesses, in collaboration with their supply chain partners, financial backers and researchers. While innovation involves a multitude of players, businesses play the vital role of bringing new ideas and better ways of doing things to commercial fruition.

In this year’s Australian Innovation System Report we explore the businesses that succeed the most, referred to as “high-growth firms”. These are, as the name suggests, businesses that make an outsize contribution to economic growth. But, by how much?

The report quantifies the contribution of high-growth firms to the Australian economy and assesses whether innovation plays a role in their growth. Further, it looks at trends in the incidence and attributes of high-growth firms to understand whether they share any typical characteristics. Given today’s pace of change, innovation policy must be reviewed regularly for it to remain relevant, effective and connected.

This report explores the policy considerations related to high-growth firms, and looks more broadly at potential areas for improvement in the general business environment. The report brings together a range of indicators and highlights some important aspects of innovation and firm growth to consider in aiming to provide an environment which empowers the innovators of Australia’s future.

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